Saturday, June 2, 2012

i don't have anything to write about

Actually, I do.

It's my students that don't.

I know my original beginning of the summer reading list included Gabriel's Rapture (finished!) Math Work Stations (on Chapter 2,) and the entire Harry Potter series (halfway through Philosopher's Stone,) but something else snuck in.

I got this book for reading on the last workday of school, since I was pretty much done with all my work but had to stay until 11:30 anyway. (I didn't want to drag my hard copy of Math Work Stations to school.) This book so far has made me feel like I need to totally overhaul my writing instruction. Totally.

Normally, when I read a professional book, I think of what things I can incorporate from it, based on my students' needs and what I already do that works. However, I'm not really sure my writing instruction works right now. At all.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration. My students showed improvement in writing this year, but it was mostly in that many of them wouldn't write anything when they came to me. Not even a picture. Past that, their improvement has mostly been in conventions. Which is not exactly the most important thing. And, according to one of our last professional developments at our school, that seems to be a theme. Our students are generally strongest in conventions.

If you haven't read this book and feel like your writing instuction could use improvement, I encourage you to check it out. Here are some things I've been thinking about so far:

  • I had never seen writing workshop in a classroom before, except for when I was in first grade. As the student. Since I was already identified-gifted (but our school's math/science pull-out didn't start until third grade,) I mostly sat in a corner with my writing box and journal. (That was most of my elementary schol experience, actually. Why waste time on the kid in the 99th percentile?) I had the best crayola bold-colored markers in my box, and I loved the color names. Azure. It was wonderful. I don't remember my teacher ever giving me any instruction or conferring. I always had work to take home to show my grandmother, but not due to anything my teacher did. Anyway, I'm digressing. What I mean to say is this: this book explains what writing workshop can look/sound like and how it can be effective.
  • I was kind of tangential with my marker story, but I'll tie it back in. She suggested the use of motivating supplies that the children will be interested in to make writing time more engaging. I think I can easily accomplish this.
  • I need to strengthen my mini-lessons on writing, and I think that using more mentor texts and modeled writing will help. I used these strategies already last year, but I think I can improve.
  • I need to provide more choice in writing topics this year, instead of mandating a prompt every day. I started out doing this, but it was not working. I think I need to work on better lessons at the beginning of the year on choosing a topic in order to facilitate this.
  • The book initially is very insistent on no prompts. However, my students are assessed on response to prompts and also have to complete prompted writing at times in their regular class. I think I can work this skill in by not requiring prompt responses until we're established in our routine and only having a "must-do" every few weeks. I'm still considering this.
  • I need to change my language subtlety when conferring with students about their writing in order to promote revision. I also need to change the way I think about finished products and our objective in writing.
  • Finally, I think I need to make a bigger deal about sharing and publishing student work.
I'm not quite done yet, and I'm sure there are more things to consider about my writing instruction. Have any of you read this book? Any thoughts? 

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